I don’t know how long I laid there on the ground bleeding. All I could recall was the rest of the crew—my friends—were laughing and talking not far from where I lay.
“He left me no choice, I had to hit him,” Ian, who I had met years ago in Boy Scouts, said loud enough for me to hear.
“He was way out of line,” Tina said. “I have so totally lost all respect for him.”
It didn’t hurt so much that my friends had turned on me. It didn’t hurt that I was laying on the forest floor in the moonlight with my head pounding with a sharp pain in my mouth. What hurt was that Sandra wasn’t there.
Sandra, sweet Sandra. I had been trying for such a long time to get her to pay some attention to me. After a month of seeing her on the bus, I managed to sit close enough to ask if she liked Social class.
“It’s awesome, we have Mr. Munsen,” she said, her intelligent brown eyes shining and looking into mine. “He is so cool, I think all the girls are in love with him.”
That first day we talked about places we had worked at and what it was like to be the youngest child, the latest movies, and all kinds of things. It wasn’t more than two more weeks of talking and I had her number. Just in time for summer break. The only trouble was getting up the courage to call her.
And then there was now. The party, the fire, my former friends. I had planned this party for weeks and had even got the beer. I was so nervous about calling Sandra I drank a little before calling. She wasn’t home, however. I sat in my room for a while drinking even more and then called her while I was blasted. I heard the words no teenager ever wants to hear.
“I would love to, Brad, but I have a boyfriend.”
“I didn’t know you were going out with anyone,” I said, my words slurring.
“Have you been drinking?” she said, sounding angry.
“Yes. I was wondering who the guy was.”
“I didn’t want to tell you because it just happened recently. I knew you liked me, and you know the guy.”
“That’s okay, we can still be friends right?”
“I don’t know if we can, Bradley. I don’t think people who have romantic inclinations for each other can be friends afterwards.”
“You mean you had romantic inclinations for me?”
“Yeah, sort of. I’m really sorry, okay? Maybe things will seem better when we go back to school. For now, please don’t call me.”
I hung up the phone without a word and pointed my index finger at my head and popped my thumb in the universal gesture of wanting to shoot myself. *She liked me.*
The painful hours slipped by and turned into days, and then it was time for the party. I just wanted to drink my face off, so I arrived already in the bag. In my diminished capacity, I lashed out at my friends and was rude and ignorant, and even kept mooching their booze. It was Ian that tried to console me and put me back in a good headspace.
“Brad, we know what’s going on with you.”
“You have no idea what’s going on!” I yelled. “This is way past you people and your little problems.”
Ian put his hand on my shoulder and led me away.
“Brad, we know you’re hurting. Maybe I should take you home,” Ian said. I pushed him hard and he tripped and fell over but scrambled quickly to his feet.
“What do you know? What do you know about me?” I screamed.
“I know this is all about Sandra and that you just have to accept what happened. There will be other girls!”
“Who told you what?” I screamed again.
“Brad, I’m the one who is going out with Sandra now.” All at once, it felt as though I had been hit in the head with a sledgehammer. Ian approached me, and I swung at him and connected, but then he hit me back, knocking me flat.
“When you calm down, you can come back to the party,” Ian said as I tried to keep from vomiting.
Eventually, I got up and started walking home and my parents were out. I went down in the basement and took my Dad’s key and found his pistol, then went to my room and called up Sandra. I started crying and whining, then we talked, and it all seemed so effortless. She was such a kind and intelligent person that even in the depths of my pain she made me feel better. Towards the end, I started crying again, and I didn’t feel bad about it—she was that sweet of a person. Then for some reason we both just went silent, and I put the phone down, grabbed my dad’s gun, and a loud explosion went off in my room. Sandra screamed, but I picked up the phone and talked to her.
“What did you just do?” she asked.
“I just fired the gun at my shadow. Kind of symbolic,” I said. “I think I need to find someone to share my life with, but I’m realizing that my life hasn’t really begun yet. Goodbye, Sandra.”
Hanging up the phone, I knew I could never call her again and that I had to get to work finding some new friends, or my life would start to suck in a hurry. I also had to thank my Dad for occasionally loading his gun with blanks because I had actually pointed his pistol towards my head.